Hot Cross Mini Buns

 

About the size of a large doughnut hole, though not as sweet, these miniature hot cross buns will look great in a basket on your Easter table. The dough is filled with raisins or currants, spices, and saffron (if you choose to add it). The taste can be a surprise, because our eyes see the icing design on top and our brain assumes that the buns themselves will be sugary, like cinnamon rolls . . . or doughnuts. They aren’t. The bread is like a slightly sweet dinner roll, though those little bits of fruit inside do add a sweet surprise with each bite.

With regular hot cross buns there’s a higher bread-to-icing ratio, so I usually slather mine with butter or jam, but these little ones don’t need to be gussied up like that. Just two bites (unless you’re my husband, in which case, they are popped into his mouth whole) and you’re reaching for the next one. See? You’ve just saved all of those pesky butter and jam calories, so you can eat more mini buns!

A few years ago I made hot cross buns for a Yummy Northwest Easter column, using a very old and challenging recipe. It was an experience. If you’d like to see what happens when I have kitchen fail after kitchen fail, by all means go read the archived article: Old Fashioned Easter. Scroll down; the link to the recipe is right under the photo of Hot Cross Buns.

HINTS:

  • I added saffron to this recipe because it’s a traditional spice used to symbolize something or other (sunshine, spring, happy stuff) and because I happened to have a bottle of it languishing in the pantry. If you have some, add a few strands – but don’t overdo it, because the sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg should predominate.
  • You don’t have to mark the tops of the raised buns. You can just bake them as they are and use the icing alone to create the crosses. If you want to cut the design in the top before baking, make sure you use a very sharp blade so the puffy little buns don’t get smooshed.
  • If you like lots of fruit in your rolls, add more raisins or throw in a handful of chopped apricots or dried cherries.

 

Hot Cross Mini Buns
Print
Author:
Makes 60 mini buns Hot cross buns are slightly sweet and lightly spiced. Saffron is a traditional addition, but the buns are delicious without it, too.
Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • small pinch saffron - OPTIONAL!
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup butter, cut into large chunks
  • ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1 cup very warm water
  • 1 package active-dry yeast
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon allspice
  • 4½ cups bread flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • GLAZE:
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons water (or use fresh lemon juice for some "zing")
Instructions
  1. In small saucepan, heat milk and saffron (if using it) until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and, using a strainer if you added saffron, pour into a large bowl. A stand mixer is best. Add raisins, butter, and ¼ cup sugar, stirring briefly. Butter will soften, but don't worry if it isn't completely melted.
  2. In a small bowl, combine warm water with remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Add yeast and allow mixture to sit until foamy - about 5 minutes.
  3. Add yeast mixture, egg, and spices to the milk mixture and beat until combined.
  4. Add flour and salt. Switch to dough hook if using a stand mixer, and knead by machine for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes. Dough should be soft but not sticky.
  5. Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double, about 1 hour.
  6. On lightly floured surface, punch down dough. Divide into 60 equal pieces and roll into balls. The easiest way to do this is to work on an unfloured surface. Form a ball by bringing the sides to the top, like an Asian dumpling, and then turning the ball over and pulling it towards you, scooching it along the surface.
  7. Place balls at least ½-inch apart on ungreased baking sheets, cover, and allow to rise until almost double, about 1 hour.
  8. Heat oven to 375 F
  9. Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, pinch of salt, and water (or lemon juice) in a small bowl. Mix well. (Hint: for a firmer icing, add ½ teaspoon meringue powder.) Remove 2 tablespoons of icing and place in a small cup. Add water to the small cup a few drops at a time until it is a very thin consistency. This will be brushed over hot rolls to add a thin, shiny coating. Place remaining icing in a heavy plastic bag with one tip cut off, or in a pastry bag with small writing tip.
  10. With a very sharp knife or razor blade, cut a cross shape on top of each bun, if desired. Bake mini buns for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are rich golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately brush with a light layer of the thinned glaze. Allow to cool on a rack.
  11. Pipe a cross on each bun with icing (fill in the design if you cut the buns before baking) and allow to dry thoroughly before storing.

Add a small pinch of saffron to milk if desired. (I may have gone a little crazy here. Don’t use quite that much unless you love the taste of saffron!)

Heat milk until bubbles appear all around the edge of the pan. (Don’t forget to strain out the saffron.)

Isn’t this beautiful, soft dough?

Cut dough into 60 equal pieces. (Mrs. OCD here can tell you that I had 60 20-gram balls of dough. Yes, I weighed them. No, you don’t have to.)

Roll into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet to rise.

After balls rise, cut an X in them with a very sharp knife or razor blade if desired. (Or you can skip this step and just make the X with the icing after they’re baked.)

Brush with thin glaze while hot, and then pipe on the cross after they cool.

They don’t have to be for Easter, of course. Skip the icing and split these little sweethearts in half. Spread with lemon curd, honey butter, or flavored cream cheese for a luncheon or party. And . . . hide a few for yourself!

Lorinda

Easter Bunny Drops

If you see chocolate covered raisins and grated carrot peeking out of the cookies on my brunch table, you’ll know the Easter Bunny has left a little surprise on his way through the kitchen!

He can’t help it; bunnies are like that. I had a litter-box trained rabbit once, but he still left a few droppings on the way to and from the box. More than you wanted to know, right?

These cookies are very light and cake-like, not crunchy. I like mine just bursting with goodies, so I add a handful of toasted pecans to the dough too for a little extra flavor and crunch. You could also add a small can of crushed pineapple with the juice thoroughly pressed out.

You don’t really have to glaze them, but they’re so appealing with that thin coat of icing that I couldn’t resist.

These are about as easy as cookies get. Make lots and lots; they’ll go quickly!

Easter Bunny Drops
Print
Author:
Makes 48 cookies (a few more if you add the optional ingredients).
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup oil (I use peanut, but any light colored oil will work)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup grated carrot (not too finely grated - you want to see the color!)
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 ounces (about 1¼ cups) chocolate covered raisins
  • OPTIONAL: ¼ cup chopped nuts, 1 small can crushed pineapple (all liquid pressed out)
  • GLAZE: 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons water, whisked together well.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Cover baking sheets with silpat or parchment.
  2. In large bowl, beat sugar and oil together well.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk and beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed.
  4. Mix in grated carrot, (pineapple, if you're using it) flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon just until incorporated.
  5. Stir in chocolate covered raisins (and nuts, if desired).
  6. Using a small cookie scoop or level tablespoon, drop onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.
  7. Cool on a rack and brush with a very thin layer of sugar glaze.

Sticky, gooey dough!

Scoop onto silpat or parchment. Don’t flatten!

Bake for 12 minute until bottoms are a rich golden brown.

Tell the kids that the Easter Bunny is magic, and his droppings are good to eat. They’ll buy that. I did!

Lorinda